Objective tumor response rates observed in phase II trials for metastatic melanoma have historically not provided a reliable indicator of meaningful survival benefits. To facilitate using overall survival (OS) or progression-free survival (PFS) as an endpoint for future phase II trials, we evaluated historical data from cooperative group phase II trials to attempt to develop benchmarks for OS and PFS as reference points for future phase II trials. Individual-level and trial-level data were obtained for patients enrolled onto 42 phase II trials (70 trial arms) that completed accrual in the years 1975 through 2005 and conducted by Southwest Oncology Group, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, Cancer and Leukemia Group B, North Central Cancer Treatment Group, and the Clinical Trials Group of the National Cancer Institute of Canada. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify prognostic variables, and between-trial(-arm) variability in 1-year OS rates and 6-month PFS rates were examined. Statistically significant individual-level and trial-level prognostic factors found in a multivariate survival analysis for OS were performance status, presence of visceral disease, sex, and whether the trial excluded patients with brain metastases. Performance status, sex, and age were statistically significant prognostic factors for PFS. Controlling for these prognostic variables essentially eliminated between-trial variability in 1-year OS rates but not in 6-month PFS rates. Benchmarks are provided for 1-year OS or OS curves that make use of the distribution of prognostic factors of the patients in the phase II trial. A similar benchmark for 6-month PFS is provided, but its use is more problematic because of residual between-trial variation in this endpoint.